Re-Imaging Teacher Prep in Light of #COVID19
Editor’s note: COVID19 has allowed some opportunities that may not have been available without. With a little extra time we, ( James Kapptie & Carl Hooker), came up with a plan to do a shared blog. While isolated in Wyoming and Texas the topic and discussion was created. We hope that as with all great blog posts that you join and add to our discussion.
Re-imaging teacher prep in light of #COVID19
What are the biggest new requirements for teacher prep as a result of COVID19?
CH: I’ve been lucky enough to guest lecture several college teacher prep courses over the years. One thing that stood out to me is that lack of development on educational technology. College students generally “get” technology when it comes to games, social media, and learning a platform quickly, but generally, they struggle with when it comes to thoughtful integration of technology for learning. I think this pandemic has shined a bright spotlight on those deficits that start at teacher prep and continue somewhat through professional learning once they are with a district.
JK: I would totally agree with Carl that teachers in general miss some of the technology integration logic. We all are very similar to our students. I am always amazed when students struggle with learning something and it never crosses their mind to “google” it. We all are guilty of using youtube to assist us in some ways but don’t think of it as a place to help school learning. Maybe the spotlight will shine not only on the lack of prep to use the technological tools we have, but will also force us to look at what it is we want students to learn. I always like a good analogy, imagine sending mechanic students out to work on cars without showing them how different tools are needed for different parts.
CH: I like that analogy and it’s so true! It’s one thing to have the knowledge, but that doesn’t necessarily equal understanding.
How should teacher prep approach working with parents as a result of COVID19?
CH: I think this should be addressed regardless of this crisis. As a parent of three elementary aged children, I’ve always felt like having some consistency when it comes to communication home is needed. Now more than ever, that communication needs to be not only consistent, but also clarify instructions for those of us trying to teach our students at home. Teachers have relied heavily on verbal instructions and then follow-ups for checking with understanding. Now they are sending home information in packets or weekly choice boards that have some limited instructions that can be confusing for both parents and students. While we need to give teachers some grace as they are ultimately doing educational triage on their lessons, I think this could be refined more in the future.
JK: The point of “teachers doing triage on their lessons” is well stated. Teacher prep courses need to have parent “practicums” if you will. Teaching teachers how to ask the right questions so that they can build an effective team with parents is no easy task. Most teachers become well versed at communicating in the controlled environment with kids but communication with adults is not usually a topic we work into teacher prep. Learning to talk to adults and asking them how we can make this work better is a great starting point.
CH: I also think giving them some basic expectations about sending home a list of tools and apps being used along with login information would be a great start to opening up those channels of communication when it comes to learning. Too many times that communication is about poor behavior but how great would it be to get a message from your child’s teacher giving you some additional learning strategies or tools to use at home?
What should school Administrators look for in new hires as a result of COVID19?
JK: I think school administrators should consider a few things in their new hires. First, applications need to include technology “application” examples from candidates. Show me a tool and how it has been used. The tool that they model will not be nearly as insightful, as the chance to see their process. This gives administrators and hiring teams a chance to see what level they are taking the learning to and how technology is offering something that otherwise wouldn’t be possible. Second, give them an opportunity to pick a tool and explain how they could use it to take learning across the DOK levels. We need to see teachers committing to getting far deeper than just substituting technology for what we already do. Writing in a Google doc is no more impressive than on paper…unless that online document takes the learning somewhere that would be nearly impossible without it.
CH: You hit the nail on the head there. Just trouble-shooting a google doc is one thing, but actually diving deeper into pedagogical practices and reasoning is another. One thing I implemented as an administrator when hiring Educational Technologists is something I called “The Gauntlet”. The idea was to mimic the issues and interactions the position might encounter on any given day. Applicants went through a series of challenges that involved presenting to a group, solving technical issues, supporting parents and administrators, and coaching grade level teams. It was a lot of work and a full day for each of the applicants, but my theory was that it was easy to hire people but harder to fire them. Why not start by coming up with a more in-depth process to hire high quality people that is more than just the traditional group interview (which really favors people that interview well)
HR departments have needed to rethink their hiring practices for decades, but this pandemic has really highlighted the deficits some of our teachers have as they enter the profession.
JK: Love the “Gauntlet” idea. We can’t look to improve schools if we are not willing to look at new ways to assess candidates. The analogy that comes to mind is those solid rubber tires on the first cars would really work that well today, so why are we hiring so similar to how we did thirty or forty years ago?
How does professional development adapt for teachers as a result of COVID19?
CH: This is an area that I could spend hours discussing. As an administrator that ran professional development in a school district, I always tried to figure out different ways for our teachers to learn other than physically being in a building for several hours a day in the summer. I love the conference experience when done right, but that might not be an option now, at least physically in the same space. Much like learning with the students, there should be synchronous and asynchronous options available for our teachers. Synchronous options could be an online discussion via video conference or participating in a live webinar. Asynchronous options could be book studies, twitter chats, and other projects that can involve much more virtual collaboration.
JK: Well said Carl! Professional development, moving forward should highlight the idea of “modeling” what learning can look like. The PD can be meaningful and meet educators where they physically are. There will always be an avenue for in person group learning but we can make the learning opportunities more cost effective and time appropriate so that more educators can take part. If we have more educators involved it will hopefully help the needed ideas for improving education more quickly adopted.
CH: I’m excited to see what comes out as a result of this and have already started developing some of my own “Remote Professional Learning” packages for schools to use this summer and fall. It doesn’t just have to be sit-n-get in front of a computer screen.
What are some things we can do, once back in the classroom, to better prepare students of all ages for learning online?
JK: This is a great question. I feel like schools need to incorporate this “new” hybrid mindset into our culture. Schools need to make sure classrooms are connecting to places outside the school building. Model what connected learning should look like. Schools and communities need to be addressing the inequity that has become apparent during this crisis. Plans to address making sure students have connecting tools but also that there is a connection. Schools having busses with hotspots is great for the moment but we must come up with better ways to provide infrastructure when students are not in the building. This planning can help us address summer learning loss, snow days or weather issues, family vacations, medical emergencies and if there is a recurrence of COVID19. The term “new normal” means we have to address how we can create quality educational opportunities when we aren’t in school.
CH: I think the inequity of access is a major issue. Schools are applying bandages to this now, but it needs a long-term fix. I also think we could benefit by sending home more blended learning activities instead of digital homework. Too often I see busy work coming home that could be done with or without technology. We have been preaching the 4 C’s for years and see it in our physical classrooms but not so much when it comes to online learning. This will come with growth, training and understanding of what high quality online learning looks like for kids of all ages.
JK: Creating high quality online learning will take education companies to help create simple to use tools that are more than just recording devices.
Thank you Carl, your perspective is thoughtful and important. I appreciate you joining me on this adventure.
Thank you James for reaching out! We have a long way to go, but with connection and collaboration we can make the future even brighter.
James Kapptie is a 20 year classroom veteran. His experience includes Middle and High School, Administration, Technology Director, Education speaker and consultant, and Computer Science and “Purposeful Technology” Evangelist based out of Cheyenne, Wyoming. You can follow him on twitter @jpk38 and more of his work at his blog: https://ourchildrenarecalling.blogspot.com/